|photos by Lauren Colwell|
Vaught’s note: Vaughtsviews.com regular Lauren Colwell was one of about 200 women at the Kentucky Football Women’s Clinic Saturday and shares these impressions, perspectives with us along with a plea.
By LAUREN COLWELL
On Saturdays each fall, I sit with my husband on the couch, a bowl of popcorn between us, and we cheer on our beloved football Wildcats. My husband watches intently, yelling about what the refs should have called and clapping wildly for completed plays. I meanwhile, take my clapping and yelling cues from him, and try to keep him at a volume that won’t scare our children or roust our neighbors.
So when I learned of the annual UK Football Women’s Clinic at Commonwealth Stadium, my husband said, “You should go. To be honest, I’m kind of tired of you asking me, ‘Who’s that good for?’ each time the whistle blows.” It’s true, I have no idea what’s happening when I see a pile of SEC uniforms on the ground and the refs are blowing whistles and waving. I know what the end zones are for, but everything that happens in between is kind of fuzzy. And as I headed out the door to the clinic on Saturday, my husband said, “Oh, and get some autographs for me.”
Arriving at Gate 1 of Commonwealth Stadium, I joined 200 other women in blue. The goodie bags that were given out at the entrance were fantastic: a UK backpack, a clinic t-shirt, football yearbook, clinic notebook and a UK scarf. There was also a booth where we could purchase additional UK t-shirts and footballs for all those signatures.
After a tour of the suites atop Commonwealth, we came back to find that Head Coach Joker Phillips had arrived and was busy signing autographs and talking to the ladies. He quizzed us about where we were from, answered our questions, and happily signed our footballs, t-shirts and programs.
I asked him if most of the women were very knowledgeable of the sport or if they were in the learning process, as I am. “It’s a mix, some know a lot and others are learning.” When asked if the women try to give him tips or coaching advice, he replied, “No, but their husbands… that’s a different story.”
First-time attendee Kelly Harper of Ft. Mitchell said that she thinks the clinic gives a positive feeling about the team and this upcoming season. “We have season tickets, but I don’t know much about plays or calls. I hope to know more about this after today. The experience of the clinic really gets us excited for the season to start!”
Nancy Fugate of Jackson is also anxious to get the season started. “I’m looking forward to being familiar with the players and meeting the coaching staff and seeing the behind-the-scenes aspect of what it takes to run this football team,” said Nancy.
Jenny Bradley of Wolfe County was looking forward to Coach Rick Minter’s presentation. “He helps us understand plays better and the laid-back atmosphere for this entire day, the accessibility of players and coaches, just makes this a great clinic. Joker and the players are relaxed, nothing is rushed, and we can take our time, talk and have fun!”
Lisa Ellis, who works behind-the-scenes in the football office to put on the clinic each year, says planning for the clinic begins as soon as the previous one is over. “I’m always thinking, ‘What can we do better next year.’ In April, I start thinking of gift ideas, sending reminders to people, and getting things going. We all work together to pull this off and we enjoy it. We are working today, but if you look around, everyone is laughing and having a great time. The players and coaches really enjoy the clinic and interacting with the women.”
The highlight for most was running defensive formations and then actually getting to run out onto the field and catch some punts. Several women, myself included, got to take various positions and run plays. I was on the defensive line, coached by Chuck Smith. Some of us took it more seriously than others. I realized this when I felt the stern hand of a 70 year old woman pressing into my stomach to hold me back. She wasn’t letting me get by her and she was determined to stop any blocking that I was possibly attempting. I laughed, gently removed her hand, and kept going. I’m not so sure that’s how it works for the boys on game day.
The players, old and new, also seemed to be having a great time. Former Wildcat Jeremy Jarmon, who is back with UK as Assistant Director of Football Operations said, “My favorite event that UK Football puts on is the women’s clinic.” Freshman defensive lineman Langston Newton, brother to Morgan, said, “I’m having fun. Morgan told me what to expect and it’s fun.”
So what did I learn? I learned enough to confidently discuss Kentucky’s 3-4/4-3 defense. (A 3-4 defense means there are 3 defensive linemen and 4 linebackers, whereas a 4-3 defense is 4 defensive linemen and 3 linebackers.) I can talk about their aggressive and fast defense, their plans for great tackling and forcing take-aways. And I learned how to spot the lineup that means Coach Minter is about to run his “max blitz” and I can effectively use terms like “bump and run”. The Cats also play a cover-2 coverage and a cover-3 coverage. I can’t wait to see these lineups and predict plays to see my husband’s expression!
Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach Randy Sanders took questions from the audience and addressed the situation with UK’s quarterbacks. “I’ve always believed whether the guy is a senior, junior, true freshman, whoever gives you the best chance to win, plays. I was really pleased w/what Max (Smith) did this spring. I’ve been really pleased with the way Morgan (Newton) has responded to his shoulder surgery, and I’ve been pleased with the way the two freshmen have worked this summer. Now how it shakes out, we’ll see.”
After a demonstration on the field of some wide receiver drills, we were able to take a tour of the Nutter Training Facility. The highlight for me at the end was when a lady stood up and addressed all of us. She talked about how important it is to get behind our team and support our boys. Bottom line: they are playing for us, they’re our team, so let’s make some noise!